Murray State vs. Marquette (5:15 pm, CBS)

Canaan looking for redemption

jclay@herald-leader.comMarch 17, 2012 

  • Murray State vs. Marquette

    What: NCAA Tournament West Regional third-round game

    Where: Louisville's KFC Yum Center | When: 5:15 p.m. Saturday | TV: CBS-27

    Records: Murray State 31-1, Marquette 26-7 | Series: Marquette leads 1-0

    Last meeting: Marquette won 82-62 on March 8, 1969, at Carbondale, Ill., in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Murray State basketball has experienced 25 straight winning seasons, won 23 OVC regular-season championships and 15 conference tournament titles, all without ever reaching a Sweet 16.

Now, for the second time in three years, the Racers are one win away.

"I can't even put into words what that would mean," Coach Steve Prohm said at the team's meeting with the media on Friday. "What it would mean to the school and to Murray, but mainly what it would mean to these 14 kids."

After beating Colorado State 58-41 on Thursday, Murray meets Marquette at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday at the KFC Yum Center.

After upsetting Vanderbilt in 2010 in the Round of 64, Murray lost a heartbreaker to a Butler team that ended up in the national championship game.

Behind 54-52 in the final seconds, Murray guard Isaiah Cannan could not get off his shot, tried to pass and turned the ball over.

"You've always got to take failures to learn," Cannan, the Racers' leading scorer this year, said Friday.

Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy, who coached the Racers in 2010, was at Thursday's game and spoke to the team before its team meeting on Thursday night.

The afternoon win improved the Racers, a No. 6 seed, to 31-1. Marquette, the No. 3 seed, handled BYU 88-68 on Thursday.

Murray's Donte Poole suffered a broken nose but said he would probably not play in a mask.

And the Racers players said they hoped to do much better from the free throw line where they were just 13-for-26 for 50 percent on Thursday.

"We hadn't played in so long," said senior Ivan Aska. "I guess we just had to get adjusted."

The most amusing part of Murray's news conference was a question about the twitter page for Ed Daniel's hair.

"He's a teammate so I don't follow it because I follow him everywhere," Aska said. "He's just fanatic with his hair. He's always got to have his hair right, pick it out. He usually don't like us touching it."

Marquette finished second in the Big East and has a size advantage on the Racers.

"They look like they should all be in spring practice at Alabama and LSU," Prohm said. "I mean that as a compliment."

The Marquette players admitted they do football agility drills and do play the sport.

"We play (against) ourselves," said guard Darius Johnson-Odom, since the school does not play football.

In a basketball state, Murray is expecting a supportive crowd Saturday. "We do have a lot of people coming to the game, a lot of blue and gold," said senior Jewuan Long. "Even the Kentucky fans, they've been supporting us."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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